It’s ironic really. As I contemplate the subject of empowerment, I hardly feel the unleashing of my potential. The baby is teething something fierce, my 3-year old has the flu and, quite frankly, I’m exhausted. I know what the topic insinuates, commissioning women to serve formally in church ministry, but I can’t help but think about what it practically means for me now. I am reminded by scripture that “when you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me” (Matthew 25:40), and “…whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43). Ministry is first and foremost about serving, not accolades or promotion. Every day I look into the beautiful little brown eyes of ministry opportunities.
Now, please don’t hear what I’m not saying. It’s not that there is no room for women to engage in more formalized church ministry, in fact quite the opposite is true. In the midst of the torrid debate on what a woman’s place is in the church, we oftentimes forget the more obvious truths. The proving ground for public ministry is in our everyday lives. If we don’t faithfully execute the daily tasks set before us, we immediately disqualify ourselves for the rest. So let’s begin on that point.
Empowerment begins in a right understanding of true ministry
Women need to be encouraged to develop the ministry in their own personal lives. As a woman in pursuit of true ministry, I have to ask myself a few questions. What is being observed in my everyday life? How do I respond to my little ones when I am under extreme pressure? Do I grumble and complain about things that do not particularly work out in my favor? Do I show honor and respect to those in authority? Not that personal perfection must be achieved, but having the right mind about what it really means to serve is crucial before we are permitted to serve the church in a more high profile way.
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Empowerment through Biblical example
Let God’s word inform our understanding; there is nothing that will establish our resolve more than the scriptures. Throughout the bible there are examples of women exercising authority, acting in the areas of evangelism, teaching, prophecy, hospitality and other ministry capacities. Anna the prophetess, toward the end of her life, worked in the temple day and night serving God. When she saw the young Jesus she “came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38). The most effective form of evangelism is personal witness and Jesus chose women to be the first eye-witnesses to His resurrection and the first messengers to spread this very key part of the gospel. Mary Magdalene was one of the most significant women of the New Testament, in fact she was spoken of more often in the bible than most of the twelve apostles. She took a leading role in the events surrounding Jesus death, burial and resurrection and was considered one of Jesus’ most devout followers. Phoebe, a deacon in the early church, served with Paul and was responsible for delivering the letter to the Romans. The word used to describe her, ‘prostatis’, comes from classical Greek describing an overseer of athletes in the Olympic games. She was a woman of courage and a forerunner to woman serving in the church ever since. Romans 16:7 says, “Oh how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!”
Empowerment through training
Whether male or female, all of us should study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15 and 16). In a teaching capacity, if there is little to no understanding of scripture, there is very little to teach. An evangelist without a correct understanding of the gospel has very little to share. In any ministry, knowledge of God and His word is imperative. Practically, this knowledge can be obtained by personal study, group bible studies, and a more formal biblical education. The church should emphasize that women need to be well grounded in the word as much as any other believer. Encourage personal study, promote group bible study, and make the effort to support the desire for more formal training. Your church may have a college fund to send bright, enthusiastic young men to study God’s word, what about your young women? Even if your church views the role of women in the church from a complementarian point of view, have you forgotten who it is who teaches your children on a day to day basis? Shouldn’t those teachers be saturated in scripture and grounded in sound doctrine? For the women who wage battles on the front lines in their little one’s lives every day, is biblical training less important?
Empowerment through active service
Volunteer positions are fine and necessary, but when you see that your church staff is primarily men and your volunteer positions are almost exclusively women, is it possible something is amiss? It is not good for man to be alone — I believe this is as true in church government as it is in marriage. In the professional world a woman trained in accounting with proper knowledge and credentials is put in a position of money management; but in the church that same woman is often put on diaper duty and overlooked even when there is a position in church finance available. And don’t think I am downplaying diaper duty (I am doing that almost full time right now), I am just saying consider the whole of the church when placing qualified individuals. Women have a valuable perspective which God himself feels is important or He would not have brought her onto the scene to serve by Adam’s side in the first place. There are many women who have logged countless hours into study and preparation to share wisdom and knowledge. Invite women to participate, to offer fresh perspective and insight. Encourage women to be involved in ministry.
Kristi Winkler is a contributing writer for Sharefaith, a veteran eLearning developer, writer/editor, and business software analyst. Her writing gives a voice to the ministry experts she consults with and interviews.